StixCampNewstead – Paul Fenwick on ‘Hacking other peoples’ brains’

Paul Fenwick, a consummate and hilarious presenter at past BarCampMelbourne events, lived up to his reputation and had the audience in stitches with his talk on ‘Hacking other peoples’ brains’. The entire premise of his talk is that as geeks, we need to translate inter human communications to some form of protocol – like TCP for Humanz 🙂

Using The Sims as an example, he explained how to get better outcomes when communicating with people, we need to understand how they think and feel – what their ‘status bars’ are and how people are motiviated. As Paul explains – happy people are more likely to give us what we want. This is why people are more likely to say ‘yes’ when you buy then a coffee or bring them chocolate 🙂 A lot of the content in Paul’s presentation boils down to common sense – such as trying to create a win-win situation – if you are helping people fulfill their goals and desires, then they are more likely to assist you in return.

A key point of the presentation was that people are more willing to help if they are made to feel that what they’re doing – and hence themselves – are important and valued – which is why recognition should never be overlooked. If this means telling their manager’s manager about what a great job they’ve done – then do it!

Paul recommended as a great tool for collaborative to do lists.

The 9000 day manifesto

I have 9000 days left to live.

Well, thereabouts anyway. How did I calculate this? By averaging the ages of death back a couple of generations on either side, factoring in underlying medical conditions, risky behaviour etc etc. It’s not a perfect model. In short, I’m 29 turning 30 in two months, and there’s good money on me kicking up my heels between 60 and 65.

Sure, there’s some things I can do that might change that outcome. But they might not either. Or I could get hit by a bus tomorrow.

So the big question is what am I going to do for the next 9000 days? Thinking about this in terms of days rather than years or decades helps to put this sense of purpose into perspective. I reflected on how my hours are currently spent. There are 168 hours in a week. Of these;

  • 45 hours (27%) are spent at work
  • 56 hours (33%) are spent sleeping (based on 7.5 hours per night)
  • 2.5 hours (1.5%)  are spent travelling to and from work
  • 12 hours (7.1%) are spent doing housework or gardening
  • 5 hours (3%) are spent in the gym, walking or in the pool
  • 8 hours (4.8%) are spent cooking, eating or preparing food
  • 5 hours (3%) are spent socialising – talking on the phone, going out etc
  • 4 hours (2.4%) are spent showering, washing hair, getting dressed etc
  • 2 hours (1.2%) are spent grocery shopping, clothes shopping or other shopping

The remaining time – around 28 hours (17%) is my free time – to write on my blog, do things like play with HDTV, knitting, run my web development business, do volunteer work, watch television and generally chill out. This seems like a lot, but when you average it out, it’s around 4 hours a day. Is this enough time to do what I really want to do?


This means that the other time percentages need to be changed.

First of all, can I get away with a few minutes less sleep each day? Probably – although nothing too severe otherwise there’s a risk of getting run down, sick and therefore being unable to use that free time. There’s say 3 and a half hours a week back if I sleep seven and a half hours a day rather than eight. What about house work? What a useless waste of time! Get a cleaner in and I get back two hours a week. Awesome. Do I want to cut back on exercise time? Not really. It’s something I need to be doing more of rather than less.

Now, for work. I’m pretty lucky in that it only takes me about fifteen minutes each way to and from work. However the time that would otherwise be spent commuting seems to be going into some reasonably long hours. Is this something I can control. Well, frankly, yes. I reckon if I started to say ‘No’ a bit more often to taking on work that would save me at least 3, maybe 5 hours a week.

Now we’re starting to get somewhere. Already there’s at least 8 and a half hours back for me to do what I want. Average this over 30 years and whammo! 552 days back. I can live with that.

So what other changes will I be making to get the most out of the next 9000 days?


  • Spend more time doing things I enjoy doing, and less time doing things I have to do (like housework)
  • Spend more time with the people I like and respect, and less time with those I don’t
  • Understanding that you never know what is around the corner – and that to get the most out of the time we have left.

Go Girl – Go for IT! 2008

The ‘Go Girl – Go for IT!’ event was held at Deakin University’s Burwood campus on 28-29th October and saw over 1200 secondary school girls attend dozens of presentations by women in IT, who spoke of their career directions and aspirations.  Organised by Victorian Women in ICT, the event aims to attract female middle secondary students into a career in information and communications technology – and to explain some of the subject choices they need to make to get there.

Having participated in BarCampMelbourne and Software Freedom Day, I was motivated to assist with Go Girl – Go for IT! Both BarCamp and SFD engender (no pun intended) a strong sense of community, have a strong freedom ethos and a determination to break down barriers to participation – all things shared by GGGIT. While the workload was overwhelming at first, and the days themselves were both stressful and exciting it’s definitely something I’d jump at the chance to be involved with again.

As a learning opportunity the presentations offered a number of insights.

  • Know your audience: Some of the presenters (I won’t mention names) tried to be edgy or hip with their presentations, and used swear words and other shock tactics to engage the audience – even though there was little substance to their presentation.  There is an appropriate context for swearing  and presenting to 15, 16 and 17 year olds is not an appropriate context. Substance first, flashy stuff second.
  • Know your audience: Some of the better presenters were both interesting and interested – interesting to watch and genuinely interested in the aspirations and dreams of their audience. Passion is something that you can’t fake.
  • Know your audience: Some presenters were the total opposite of hip – and downright boring to watch. 15 year old girls are not business analysts or programmers – and a data flow diagram is not going to engage them.

Observations from the day included;

  • Similar to BarCampMelbourne, I noticed that the majority of presenters were Mac rather than PC based – and not just those who were heavily into graphic arts, animation or video. It appears there is definitely an increasing takeup of MacOS.
  • Girls from schools with a lower socio-economic background appeared to appreciate the day and the presenters more than private schools – it was interesting that I was not the only volunteer to make this observation. The only conclusion I can draw here is that the private schools are afforded more similar opportunities – therefore appreciate them less.
  • Many of the regional schools had to arrive late and leave early because of the distance they had to travel – however many of them did make the effort to come which was pleasing to see.

For me personally, the stand out presentations were;

  • Pia Waugh: Of Software Freedom Day International and One Laptop Per Child fame, Pia spoke on how a career in ICT can provide all the things you want from a job – money, travel, interesting work etc. She went one level higher however and showed how the work that you can do can change the world.
  • Rebecca Cannon: Spoke on the Artabase site, that intends to be the next Facebook-style collaborative social networking site for artists all over the world.
  • Kylie Robertson: Discussed her work with Ish Media. This presentation was a hoot, as it showcased the Girl Friday serial that is downloadable on to mobile phones – and pioneered the way in mobile content.